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January 2, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Man sought in park ranger's killing believed dead; body found in ditch

Tacoma Police vehicles leave Mount Rainier National Park after a body was found Monday morning (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times). Click on image to view more photos.

UPDATE: 12 p.m. By Craig Welch and Jack Broom

Ranger Margaret Anderson (AP Photo/Mount Rainier National Park)

The body of a man believed responsible for fatally shooting a ranger in Mount Rainier National Park on Sunday has been found in a ditch in the snow, law enforcement sources said Monday.

Earlier Monday, Mount Rainier spokesman Kevin Bacher said the gunman, Benjamin Colton Barnes, was believed to be in the Paradise area of the park and that searchers hoped that the cold weather would affect him as he tried to evade the manhunt.

“We do think we have figured out generally where he is,” Bacher said.

Authorities had been flying over the park last night using heat-seeking equipment and had been tracking the suspect through the snow.

But several law enforcement sources said that a body with “no heat signature” was found not far from Paradise about 10:20 a.m. Monday. The body was spotted from a plane and SWAT team members had spotted it from the ground, but it was far away and in difficult terrain so obviously the cause of death and a postive identification have not been confirmed.

“The strong possibility is that it is” Barnes, said Det. Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

Read the story from overnight.

(The News Tribune in Tacoma has made a transcript of the Mount Rainier National Park’s news conference at 8:20 a.m. today.)

Original Post

Benjamin Colton Barnes (AP Photo/Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)

A man was found dead in Mount Rainier National Park this morning and it is believed to be the suspect in the shooting death of park ranger Margaret Anderson Sunday morning, according to law enforcement sources.

Sources say the body, believed to be that of Benjamin Colton Barnes, was found about 10:20 a.m., but other details, including where exactly the body was found, weren’t immediately available. Authorities coordinating the search for Barnes had said they believed him to be in the Paradise area of the park.

Barnes is suspected in the fatal shooting of park ranger Margaret Anderson in the park about 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning after she set up a  roadblock to stop a car that was fleeing another officer.

Anderson apparently was in her car when she was hit by a bullet that pierced the door of her vehicle, said park spokesman Kevin Bacher said. It’s not believed she had time to draw her weapon.

Some 200 searchers, led by the FBI, were working in steep terrain to find Barnes, who has to make his way through chest-deep snow. He didn’t have snowshoes, Bacher said, but the searchers did.

Barnes’ initial contact with rangers was at a checkpoint where those entering the park are asked if they have proper tires and tire chains for their vehicles, Bacher said.

Barnes blew through that checkpoint, so rangers put out the call to look out for him, Bacher said.

When Barnes saw Anderson’s car, he stopped, got out and fired at her car. Meanwhile, the ranger pursuing Barne’s car pulled up a distance behind and Barnes turned and fired, shooting out the windows of that car, which was driven by ranger Dan Camiccia. He was not injured.

“We have never had an incident like that at Mount Rainier National Park,” Bacher said.

This is the first slaying of a ranger in the park, although rangers have died on the mountain itself.

“Our rangers are very much in shock this morning … we absolutely take it personally. Everybody knew Margaret,” Bacher said. “Everybody was friends with Margaret. She didn’t have an enemy in the world,” he said.

Raw video: Police say they have not confirmed ID of body

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According to Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer, a body has been found at Mt. Rainier National Park, but officials are not confirming whether it is Benjamin Colton Barnes (Video by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times).



Comments | More in General news, The Blotter | Topics: Mount Rainier National Park, park ranger's slaying, ranger


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